A partnership of loading power
With seven divisions in its portfolio – including Greyhound, Mega Coach and Citiliner – Unitrans Passenger is one of Irizar South Africa’s oldest clients.
Their relationship dates back to 2003, when Irizar was still a fledgling entity in South Africa – today it has matured into a strong partnership based on communication and trust.
Greyhound, Mega Coach and Citiliner all run Irizar coaches. However, it is Mega Coach that Leon Nelson, technical director at Unitrans Passenger, and Paul Nel, director at Irizar South Africa, are really interested in talking about.
The company has just added four Irizar i6 coaches to its fleet, which means there are now around 60 Mega Coach-branded Irizars on the road. In fact, says Nelson, Mega Coach is the only local operator running an Irizar PB from Spain (all others originate from Brazil).
“It was the first PB in Africa from Europe,” Nel explains. “Everyone at Mega Coach stuck their necks out significantly, back in 2004 – and today the vehicle is still running, with close on one million kilometres on the clock.”
Nelson explains that Mega Coach is very specific about the vehicles it chooses to run. “Our passengers are at the upper end of the market, and we need to offer them the best form of transport. The coach market is very competitive; as an operator we have many choices. We look for best price, quality and service when choosing vehicles.”
Of course, no matter how good it is, a vehicle needs to be correctly maintained – an aspect of operation that Mega Coach takes very seriously, with 22 depots country wide.
“We follow a preventative and predictive maintenance plan. Each component has a predicted life that is managed and maintained accordingly. We continuously monitor defects, wear and tear, fuel consumption and customer complaints. Our drivers are required to report any defect, in writing, to the workshops at the end of every shift. This is the best way to determine what sort of issues the vehicles have,” Nelson explains.
Driver training is also an important aspect of the operation, with Mega Coach subjecting its drivers to six-monthly refresher training. “If we see there is a need for drivers to be more focused on any aspect of driving, for example the interior functions of an Irizar coach, we then call Paul and he assists our trainers to run an appropriate programme,” he adds.
Depending on where a vehicle might be going, drivers will also be given additional mechanical exposure to critical components and issued with additional spare parts so that, in the case of a mechanical failure, it is quick and easy to get it back on the road.
“We’ve just had a coach return to Cape Town after 52 days in Namibia, two weeks of which was spent on gravel roads. It came back without a single complaint,” Nelson illustrates, taking us back to monitoring vehicle components and analysing maintenance records. “We do this to give the best service to our customers and comfortable travel to passengers.”
The passengers really do want to travel in the i6. “The i6 features the latest technology, material, design and finishes from Europe. We see such a great benefit in that; the vehicles stand up well. Intercity operators talk about ‘loading power’; when the vehicle pulls up people want to get into it – and they do with these vehicles,” Nel smiles.
People get into them quite a lot, in fact – Nelson explains that sister company Greyhound runs an Irizar coach on a Volvo chassis that has done 3,5 million kilometres … Seems as though the newest Mega Coach i6s have a busy future ahead of them.